Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Canola Controversy: Legislature Passes Ban

HB2427: Defines Willamette Valley Protected District. Makes violation subject to civil penalty, not to exceed $25,000. Prohibits State Department of Agriculture designation of control area allowing raising of canola within Willamette Valley. Applies to canola planted on or after effective date of Act. Declares emergency, effective on passage.

After an Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) ruling earlier this year lifted a longstanding restriction on the production of canola in the Willamette Valley, a group of Democratic Representatives and Senators introduced House Bill 2427 to ban the production of canola in most of the valley through 2018.

Several months of strenuous debate followed, with some legislators warning it was "a dangerous precedent" for the state to tell farmers what they can and cannot grow. Backers of the bill included an unlikely coalition of specialty seed producers, grass seed growers, organic seed producers and small farm advocates, as well as citizen activists. They argued that the invasive canola plant, which is almost completely contaminated with genetically modified organisms (GMOs) could endanger the state's large seed industry through cross-pollination.

Their case against canola was bolstered when seed industry representatives brought in a group of Japanese seed buyers, who represent an important market for Oregon seed. The Japanese buyers said that since Japan bans the import of any GMO-contaminated crops, they would discontinue purchasing any seed produced in the Willamette Valley, a big blow to the state's economy.

The bill passed the House on a vote of 37 to 22, then passed the Senate on a vote of 18 to 12. It now heads to Governor John Kitzhaber's desk.

Read my nine-part series about the Canola Controversy.

Photo of canola field in Boardman by Gary Halvorson, Oregon State Archives, via Wikimedia Commons.

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